“Democracy” may not be the unruly, confusing, rough and tumble thing to grade that some people think it is. The Center for Systematic Peace is sitting back judging the institution for us all on a 10 point scale. It turns out to be more like competitive diving, gymnastics and ice-skating than your average Joe realized.
Dana Milbank sees his country slipping into the clutches of Tonya Harding democracy. He’ll take nothing less than Thornton Melon democracy. The Washington Post scribe demands the perfect 10’s Rodney Dangerfield got using three diving boards performing a Triple Lindy in the film Back to School. It’d be nice if WP editors were just as demanding in their copy. The WP creates a new glade every day pulping Canadian conifers. And after putting print on them they’re still pulp.
This connoisseur, of rule by the people his column is constantly sneering at, picks an odd source to launch his tirade: “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” The title is a quote from Barabara F. Walter, a political science professor at UC San Diego, whose real clout comes out of serving on the CIA’s Political Instability Task Force. An organization notorious for being mobbed up, abetting coup d’états, facilitating assassinations, faking news, using torture, destroying historical documents, arranging kidnappings and encyclopedia length ventures in skullduggery is what he relies on to warn us of the perils to democracy. I can hardly wait for his column citing Elizabeth Bathory as the authority on prevention of child abuse.
Other than events at the Capitol January 6 nothing specific is described in the article. One rowdy day is a kind of weak omen to use scaring people on the streets of America out of their wits. It gets tiresome reminding the holy media-academic synod how the crime rate has soared in the last 18 months. Pain inside the beltway is all they find genuine – geographically distant wounds are lame excuses for whining.
“By law, the task force can’t assess what’s happening within the United States,” we hear after he quotes a member of it doing just that. It gets richer though – if this guy does any digging he doesn’t share results with readers. Later he says:
“Citing the Center for Systemic Peace’s “Polity” data set — the one the CIA task force has found to be most helpful in predicting instability and violence — Walter writes that the United States is now an “anocracy,” somewhere between a democracy and an autocratic state.”
Dr. Monty Marshall, who is the director of the CSP, informed me in a phone conversation that his organization was originated and is funded by the CIA. Milbank’s idea of living up to the Post motto – “democracy dies in darkness” – is telling the public who the CIA finds “helpful” without telling them who the informers are. Does he even know? One call worked for me. The CSP turns out to be a spigot at the end of an agitprop pipe running from Langley. They get their dope from the finest experts money can make into Charley McCarthys.
Jeff Bezos landed a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency himself in 2014. That’s chicken feed to him but – as many a career criminal knows – greenbacks are not the only valuable things The Company pays off with. Milbank isn’t exactly an ace dot connector – even when the dots are of his own making. Seven years ago he gave us A true Obama scandal sounding like an apoplectic schoolmarm over the scoop of CIA double dealing. He wanted to rap the man on the street’s knuckles with a ruler for yawning at a “scandal” that had been getting moldy for ten years.
Meanwhile, the bottom line in every shrill screed over democracy’s impending doom is the need for a media instability task force – mass access to both the mics and speakers of mass communication being the number 1 threat they find to “democracy.” Civil war looms on the horizon if people who don’t realize the CIA is talking to itself out loud don’t get to preach to us – with “Amen” the mandatory response.
The CSP’s home page begins its rhetorical trek to the democratic promised land with the slogan: “Democracy cannot be defended by force; it is enforced through accountability.” How do you go about getting accountability without any ultimate resort to instruments of force? Once you solve that one the need for government is eliminated altogether. That government’s themselves are the hardest things on Earth to hold accountable may have something to do with the amounts of forceful capability they tend to amass. Being nothing less than a tentacle of government themselves explains the CSP’s strange construction of the word “enforced.”
This, from the CSP’s mission statement, makes it sound like a comprehensive large scale operation:
“The Center continually monitors political behavior in each of the world’s major states, that is, all those with current populations greater than 500,000 (167 countries in 2014) and reports on emerging issues and persisting conditions related to the problems of political violence and “state failure.””
They are based in Vienna, Va., but provide a contact number starting with a 202 (DC) area code. My first call got a recorded message. Later the director got back to me. When I tried again several times for follow up the call cut off after one ring. Dr. Marshall’s office obviously has no receptionist. It operates off his cell phone…hitting the red button when an unwelcome number is on the screen. Their headquarters, at 426 Center St. N. in Vienna, doesn’t sound like it houses much. Is it even manned?
Both Marshall and Milbank direct us to the “Polity data set” that’s supposed to elaborate how the US got knocked down 5 pegs on the ten point scale in five years. The link is above; try making sense of it. If there is any straightforward description of criteria I couldn’t find it. The closest we get to anything coherent comes from the so-called “Regime Narratives.” Like the rest of the site “RN” contains tables and graphs. If you have the idle time to try and take on the fool’s errand of decoding one, go ahead. The actual “narratives” are selective news summaries from recent events. If you were in a coma for the last half decade they might be slightly informative.
The problem, we learn from this highly regarded non-profit, turns out to be the same one we’ve been hearing about from Silicon Valley, Academia, major media and other shrill voices for years. Opinions, and especially facts, that circulate on laptops and cell phones without the benefit of editing from the high-priesthood. The possibility that anyone sermonizing from a conventional pulpit – ranging from national media, a political stump or to a college classroom – bears any responsibility for violent unrest gets no consideration.
American democracy may be tottering on some kind of brink. Plenty of developments on our streets make the case. All the screeching about violent upheaval isn’t entirely unfounded. But how can people who find events on Capital grounds January 6 to be the only ones that count expect to be counted on as reliable sources? Establishment voices are muttering to themselves like guys in rags who have been carrying incomprehensible signs in Lafayette Park for 20 years. DC old-timers might wonder: are our informing classes coming to resemble hosed down, suited up versions of Sky King?